As the number of coronaviruses cases shows a rising pattern in the last two weeks, Maharashtra has restored some restrictions on people’s movement and assembly. The state government has warned that it might also reimpose the lockdown if necessary.
Maharashtra is seeing a new spike in Covid-19 cases
More than 3,000 new cases of coronavirus infection have been registered in Maharashtra every day of the last week for the first time since mid-January.
In the second week of February, new cases were at least 14 per cent higher than in the first. 20,207 new cases were identified across the state during the week ending Sunday (February 14), compared to 17,672 in the previous week (February 1-7). The state had registered 17,293 cases in the week prior to that (January 25-31).
The maximum contribution to this surge was Mumbai, Pune, their surrounding areas and the Vidarbha region. Nearly 60 per cent of new infections were reported from Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Thane and Amravati in the second week of February. Pune had the highest number of these, with 3,228 cases in that week (February 8-14). More instances were found in Nagpur (2,628 cases) and Amravati (2,420) than in Mumbai (2,195). During that week, Thane registered 1,960 cases.
Mumbai and Pune have both registered more than 600 cases a day over the past week, which they haven’t done in at least a month. In the last week, Nagpur reported more than 500 cases twice, while Thane reported 400.
The increase right now is not really concerning. Maharashtra had registered between 2,000 and 2,500 cases in most of January, but the numbers were down steadily, although very slowly. A reversal of a weakening trend that seemed to have been permanent is the increase seen in the last two weeks.
“This is not yet a red signal, but undoubtedly a yellow alert. We need to take action to ensure that it doesn’t turn red,’ said Dr. Shahank Joshi, a member of the Covid-19 task force in the state.
Why is it happening?
The reopening of local trains for the general public in the Mumbai region may be one significant factor. But the increase observed in Vidarbha is not explained by that. Dr Pradeep Awate, State Surveillance Officer, suggests that recent gram panchayat elections may also have played a role.
During the gram panchayat polls, some areas in Vidarbha and Marathwada registered more than 80 percent voter turnout. It may have contributed to the spread of the disease. The Tivsa tehsil in Amravati district, for example, is now showing a positive rate of 32.7 percent. That means that every third sample is positive,” said Awate.
“It is not unusual these days to see 400-500 gatherings at weddings or other activities. But the rule of no more than 50 invitees from now on will be strictly enforced. Even, at these functions, people will have to wear masks,’ said Dr Rahul Pandit, a member of the Covid-19 task force of the state.
State Health Minister Rajesh Tope agreed and said that people would be heavily punished for not observing physical distancing norms or avoiding face masks. He said the district administration had allowed schools to be shut down if so warranted by the situation.